Ascension & Pentecost - Vision & Power

May is an exciting time in the church calendar. We have moved through the expectant waiting of Advent and the joy of Christmas. We have entered into sorrow in Lent and celebrated the overthrow of death and sin at Easter. In May we come to the formation of the Church at Pentecost, and the eschatological (final) promises in the Ascension of Christ.

At Pentecost, we as the church are formed and empowered to do Christ’s work on earth. The promised Holy Spirit arrives and gives great boldness to those first disciples. The people around them all thought that they were strange (in this instance, drunk in the morning), and society has found the church, when acting as it should, strange ever since. As our society moves more in a post-Christian reality the church begins to look more and more strange. The governing stories that have dominated the imagination for over a thousand years are shifting and changing. Students of disciplines such as art, history, and philosophy are having to learn the stories from the bible in order to understand the shaping forces that have influenced their chosen fields, having had no knowledge of them before. As these stories shift so to do the values that undergird those stories. I am sure that we all feel the drifting apart of the church and of society, like great ice floats that are slowly drifting apart in the ocean. As this strangeness continues to grow, and we begin to look more and more like the early church did to their society, we will also need the boldness that the Holy Spirit enabled the early church to have. Before Christ’s ascension, he tasked the church with making disciples of every nation. This is no easy task, and will often involve great boldness and sacrifice on our part. Boldness to look foolish, boldness to be rejected, and boldness to be thought of poorly. It also involves sacrifices of time and energy, and more often than not, financial sacrifices as we involve ourselves in the mess of people's lives and feel God’s promptings to help them.

The ascension also plays a great part in this endeavour. The boldness and sacrifice necessary to live as the church in the world is also borne out in Christ’s ascension. It is at the ascension that we hear Christ’s assurance that he will come again. This is not the end. This event, known as the eschaton (the last thing), is foundational for living a Christian life. We as the church are called to at all times have one foot in the present moment; listening for what God is calling us to in this moment, being aware of his presence with us at this moment. But we as the church are also called to have one foot in eternity, never losing sight of where our true home is, and of the last things and the hope that is brought about by that event. It is only this hope of heaven and eternal life that will have enabled those first Christians to have given up their lives willingly to wild animals in the Colosseum, or those Christians today who languish in prisons for their faith or who live in fear of danger to them and their families.

So Pentecost and the ascension bring together the boldness and sacrifice that we need to be God’s church, and to live out his calling for our lives in the here and now whilst holding onto the promises of eternity.

Photo by Josh Eckstein on Unsplash


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